They say that the best part of any gift is the suspense that comes right before you open it. In that time before you take the lid off the box there is a world of possibilities about what could come out of it. Is it a puppy? Is it a new set of knives? Is it hundreds of silver dollars that were thrown from hot air balloons by the Rockefellers? Yes!
On trade deadline day, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired a fifth-round draft pick for the 2020 NHL draft as compensation for retaining $2.5 million of Robin Lehner’s salary so he could be traded to the Vegas Golden Knights.
That is a lot of money to pay for a distant draft pick that most likely won’t amount to anything. Sportsnet had an article looking at the odds players taken with draft picks make the NHL, and for a pick like 148th overall, it looks to be just under 20%.
So, why would we want to look to this pick as hope for the Maple Leafs future over previous draft picks like James Greenway (72nd, 2018), Eemeli Räsänen (59th, 2017), or Mike Koster (146th, 2019)?
This pick could be any player we need right now. Right handed defender? The Maple Leafs drafted Greg Hotham in the fifth round back in 1976, and he scored 15 points in 60 NHL games for them!
What if we need a tough guy, some protection? Well, Brian Spencer was the Leafs fifth-round pick in 1969 and he would rack up 192 penalty minutes in 95 NHL games for the Leafs. They would lose him to the New York Islanders in the 1972 expansion draft, but he would play over 500 NHL games — a great result for a fifth rounder.
Another forward? Kyle Wellwood was the best fifth-round forward the Leafs got (and the second best #42), nabbing 108 points in 189 NHL games, playing second fiddle to Mats Suindin, and that explains all you need to know about the mid-aughts Leafs.
The best example of a Leafs fifth-round pick is one of the greatest Maple Leafs of all time (#58 to be exact): Mike Palmateer.
Drafted in 1974, he would play five non-consecutive seasons for the Maple Leafs and become one of the most memorable Maple Leafs goalies of all time for that mask:
I wrote up the stats and facts about all of the Maple Leafs fifth-round draft picks in my series from 2018 looking at the Maple Leafs draft picks, which you can find here.
If you need more, non-Leafs examples, with great scouting and some luck this fifth-round pick could turn into a player like these hidden gems:
Lyle Odelein (Defender, Canadiens, 1986), Stu Grimson, (Goon, Flames, 1985), Jake Muzzin (Defender, Penguins, 2007), Brendan Gallagher (Forward, Canadiens, 2010), Tom Kurvers (Defender, Canadiens, 1981).
The world is full of possibilities. Yes, the pick could be a bust like Joel Champagne or Fabrice Herzog, but it could become a solid player like Jake Muzzin or Brendan Gallagher.
Heck, it could even become Scott Niedermayer, if you find a dumb enough GM to trade with.